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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Now Go Home by Ana Maria Spagna

Now Go Home: Wilderness, Belonging and the Crosscut Saw by Ana Maria Spagna. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2004. ISBN: 0-87071-009-5

What we have here is a perfectly wonderful collection of essays that even more perfectly captures the essence of what it is to truly surrender to the outdoor life here in the Northwest. Our author may have started out as a California native, but she made it here as fast as she could, and hasn't been able to get the NW out of her soul since.

Why the crosscut saw? Because, as she explains in the first essay, the Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits anything motorized in the "Wilderness" areas, and that includes chain saws. So, as a member of the trails crew, removing downed trees from the trails means using a crosscut saw. Yeah, really.

"Now Go Home" comes from the quintessential NW attitude towards those who come from everywhere else, especially those from California, and since Spagna DOES come from precisely there, she had to deal with her own version of the attitude. "Four seconds," her college professor tells her. That's the longest an orgasm can last. "Get over it."

Here are a couple of selected but not untypical quotes:

Late fall in the Cascades. It had been raining for three months, and we could fairly expect six months more . . .

Such is the cycle I've learned working on trails. You scar up the earth, tear it to bits, to build a drainage diversion, say, or to widen tread. A year later, you can hardly tell where you've been: moss appears; leaves land and turn, by turns, into litter, duff, fertilizer, finally, for sedges and swordferns; in time trees sprout and shoot skyward for decades, then topple in windstorms; so we cut the logs, and the process starts over again. Nature recovers, then succumbs again. Just like we do. Spring arrives and drags me out of pseudo-hibernation with my clothes clean and my boots greased, happy to be back at it, carefree enough to shrug off teasing. Then sometime in mid-August, when I am bone-weary and black fly-addled, I will swear off trails forever. I will announce that I am ready, finally, to retire and eat bonbons and watch soap operas. It happens every year, and no one dares to tease me then. By October, they know, I will be back to my senses. It's a cycle we're accustomed to, rhythmic and predictable, a way of life that neither inflicts nor suffers much permanent damage.

Spagna explores her childhood roots, her current life, her experiences in building her own house with her partner. Unpretentiously, deeper meaning finds its way into the ordinary events of life, shining though the extraordinary beauty that is all around us, especially here in the northwest, especially out of doors.

Highly recommended, especially for nature readers, northwesterners, and armchair outdoorsy types like me.

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